A Tisket A Tasket: How Do They Build Wicker Baskets?
Everybody loves wicker baskets, but what do we really know about who builds them and how?
In ancient Mesopotamia, the people believed that the world began when a raft made of wicker was placed on the sea. Soil was spread on the raft and this created land. Crafting a basket is a skill that in many cases has been passed down through the generations. A couple of examples of wickerwork-producing regions of the world include:
Chenghe, China: Land of Wickerwork
Wickerwork has been going on in Chenghe for over 300 years. This region of China is known for the soft, smooth and uniform wicker they use, as well as the outstanding reputation of the basket makers. The clim ate and geography in the area produces high-quality wicker. In 2003, the people of Chenghe formed three wickerwork companies that provide work for over 500 households and a market for over 5,000 wicker growers. Special training is conducted in traditional fine weaving, nail weaving, horizontal weaving, twist weaving and wood weaving.
In Rudik, Poland: The Capital of Wickerwork
A small town in the Sandomierz Basin, Rudnik is Poland’s largest center for the growing of wicker and manufacture of wicker baskets. The wicker is grown along the banks of the scenic San River. In 2007, the Wickerwork Centre was opened in Rudnik to exhibit the fine wickerwork of this region and educate visitors about this 135 year-old tradition. Weaving demonstrations are also held.
Traditionally, “wicker” refers to the specially treated shoot of the willow tree. But wicker can also be made from other natural materials including rattan, reed, bamboo or cane stalks. Wicker baskets are also made with synthetic materials, usually plastic or resin. Contemporary wicker has even be constructed using wire or aluminium.
Generally baskets come in standard shapes and sizes, and although they come from all over the world, they look so much alike they could have been made by machine. In reality, they are mass-produced, but made by hand. There are four general classifications of basketry: Plaiting: using wide, braidlike materials such as palm, flax or yucca Coiling: using rushes and grasses Twining: using roots and bark Wicker or Splint: using willow, cane, oak, ash and reed Twining and wicker/splint are the techniques used most in creating wicker baskets.
- Fibers are first gathered, soaked, and if desired, dyed.
- If the design includes a wood base, the basket maker shapes the base and drills holes in the wood for the spokes that will form the sides.
- The basket maker works from the ground up, setting a series of spokes/rods into the base.
- He then weaves thinner, more flexible rods (called weavers) in and out of the spokes.
- The sides are formed by weaving spokes down through the perimeter spokes in the base, and then up again to form the side spokes.
- The basket make weaves flexible rods/weavers over and under the side spokes. These side spokes are longer so they can be used to border the top edge of the basket.
To read more about basket production methods, click here. An interesting thing about baskets: unlike in the weaving of textiles, the tension is not put on the threads that run length-wise, otherwise known as the warp. This is because the fibers used in baskets aren’t as flexible as threads.
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